Saturday, March 29, 2008

Pushing the Cultural Divide in Worship

How many true ethnomusicologists are there really? I imagine most who delve into ethnomusicology are either cross-cultural musicians who have merely a passing interest in the anthropological significance of the music or anthropologists who view the music of a culture as just one of many facets of the anthropological analysis of a culture. Between these extremes there are a few who I'm sure strike a balance better fit for the title "ethnomusicologist" (EM).

The Christian EM would be a missionary of sorts vested in going into remote areas where the gospel has only recently been shared with people of a little known culture. The Christian EM would have the ability to analyze the cultural import of different aspects of music and help the first church of the ethnic group develop a meaningful body of musical literature for corporate worship.

People are not very comfortable going outside of their normal worship routine. I've been in two culturally similar western denominations that have their own almost completely separate musical circles. Many of the old hymns differ from one denomination to another or even church to church within a denomination. More often than not I have heard a hymn shared where the question must be asked, "Have you sung that hymn before?" Even within a denomination, the range of musical styles available are a cause for division. It can be challenging to consider the music of another culture, another subculture, or even another generation within a culture.

I saw this video clip on a post over at the Black and Reformed Ministries Blog:

I posted some observations in the meta and I'll expand on them here.

First, I note the intricacies of the meter and rhythm in rap. Most English-speaking Christians I know, whether they favor the King James or not as fruitful for personal study, consider the translation to be a particularly beautiful one considering its rhythm and tempo, especially read by one classically trained who can read the older form of the English language with fluidity and ease. Who hasn't studied poetry and learned something of the metrics and rhyming patterns? These patterns are often rather simple compared to the patterns a rap artist will create. Rhyme, alliteration and rhythm may be loose, but it stays strictly within a larger pattern and one gets an idea of the extensive vocabulary employed by rap artists. While colloquialisms abound, the meaning is clear even to those of the larger culture.

Second, good poetry follows form and function for the purpose of enhancing and preserving meaning. I've recently considered Genesis 1 for it's poetic form. Precisely when writing was developed in the antediluvian times isn't known. (Archeology has found that Abraham's people had sophisticated enough writing a mere few hundred years after the flood to have libraries.) But until writing was developed, the creation account was most certainly developed in poetic form in order to aid in memory and fix the meaning. When rap first became popular, I remember learning a couple. Years later, I still pretty much remember them, and I'm not great at memorization. Most of the hymns I've sung since my childhood I can't recall beyond the first verse - and I'm a musician.

Third, the substance of this piece is impressive. I've heard a valid criticism of many praise and worship songs that their meaning, or lack thereof, leaves something to be desired. They rightly point to old hymns as having more substance. To be fair, there are newer songs of worship with plenty of substance. There's more substance in this rap than some old hymns I know.

Pay attention - we just might have some raps like this around the throne as well as some Oriental or Gregorian chants, Middle Eastern scales, African rhythms, or Latin American beats. Learn to worship unencumbered by mere stylistic biases and preferences.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Old Photos - When Mom met Dad: 1961-1965

You may notice that most of the photos lately feature my mom. That's because she enjoyed photography throughout her early adulthood. She was an artist of both sight and sound with photography and painting as well as music. She was also adept at all the crafts associated with growing up on a small Midwestern farm such as growing vegetables and other plants, canning and the culinary arts as well as sewing and quilting.

One story of my mom was that the dress she wore to her senior prom in high school was made by she and her mom. They did such a great job that the more well-to-do girls marveled at her and wondered where she acquired such a fine dress. While Mom was a farm girl and no stranger to soil and hard work, she was also elegant and very intelligent.

Born Ruth Arlene Reeder, this was my mom in college:

She majored in Music Education and English:

She went to college at Cumberland College in my dad's hometown of Williamsburg, KY. My dad also majored in Music Education. Mom is the flautist and Dad is the bassoonist. Those white socks are classic.

I most remember Mom playing the piano and singing. She even directed the choir at our church in Ohio for a time. Dad has played the guitar and sang primarily although I've known him to play the piano for his own enjoyment. Here he is on my grandparent's porch when he and my mom were courting. I have no idea who the girl behind him is. She's either a cousin or a fellow student.

Of course they spent a lot of time together:

They also enjoyed the outdoors:

They both graduated. Dad taught as a high school band director for a time and mom became an English teacher. Dad later went back to school to earn his degree in a brand new medical field: that of the Physician's Assistant.

I've seen the graduation photo above countless times and have only just noticed the engagement ring. Of course they were married soon after graduation. I have all kinds of the classic wedding photos of them at the church, but this isn't one you see very often:

A happy ending, perhaps, but happy endings are the beginnings of new stages in life.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Incarnation of Christ Through His Body, The Church

We may be a good church, but we still "represent Christ badly often". How do we handle it with unbelievers when we don't represent Christ the way we should? Romans 12:

1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.
2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

What was the purpose of Christ's actual human body?

So what does the metaphor of the "Body" of Christ mean for us?

Romans 12:

3 For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.
4 For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function,
5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
6 Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith;
7 if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching;
8 or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

I Corinthians 12:

12 For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ.
13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
14 For the body is not one member, but many.
15 If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body.
16 And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body.
17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?
18 But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired.
19 If they were all one member, where would the body be?
20 But now there are many members, but one body.
21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”
22 On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary;
23 and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable,
24 whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked,
25 so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.
26 And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.
27 Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.

Perhaps the most important observation from the metaphor is that the body must be subject to the head. You want to know how to have unity in the church? Listen to this next clip. If we shouldn't think to highly of ourselves and be in submission to one another, how much more should we be in submission to Christ?

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Monday, March 24, 2008

The Incarnation of Christ - Thinking Too Highly of Ourselves

One factor that applies to any consideration of living out the incarnation of Christ and making it real is Paul's admonition that we not think too highly of ourselves. This applies both to marriage: well as dealing with our brothers and sisters in Christ:

Next we'll see how this applies to the metaphor of the Church as the Body of Christ.

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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Old Photos - Road Trip West to the Youth Gathering: 1961

The summer after my mom returned from serving as a missionary and before she left for college, there was a big gathering of youth from the Church of the Bretheren out west. My grandparents took the opportunity to take my mom and aunt Ann on a road trip and see some great American sights.

This one should be familiar:

Yellowstone Park was also on the agenda:

I've always been fascinated by these pools:

The Badlands were also on the agenda:

Farmers could not afford to spend a week or more living in hotels. They camped along the way.

This nice family from Indiana also had the same idea. Yes, in those days a family of seven could share the space of a pickup camper and be happy about it:

Did I say this was a big gathering? How do you get all those people to stand in such orderly lines?

...and they gathered:

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Incarnation of Christ in our Marriages and Families

I had Ephesians 5:22-33 read at my wedding. Verse 25 is my husband verse. In this next part of the lesson, David talks about the incarnation of Christ in our marriages. I've included the scripture for your benefit:

22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord.
23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body.
24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,
26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,
27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.
28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself;
29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church,
30 because we are members of His body.
31 For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.
32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.
33 Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.

The passage doesn't end with marriage, but continues as the incarnation of Christ in our lives expands to our families in Chapter 6:

1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), 3 so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth. 4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

As a hint of things to come, David mentions the thought in the back of every parents mind that considers our own inadequacies at being responsible for the lives that have been entrusted to us.

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Old Photos - Mission in Caney Valley: 1959-1961

I had earlier made mention of my mom having spent a couple of years as a missionary in the Appalacians. This is Caney Valley, Tennessee, circa 1960:

At the bend in the road you can see a small cabin. This was where my mom and the girl who partnered with her as a missionary lived. Here's a closer shot of the cabin during the winter:

This is a closer shot of the cabin with my grandparents and aunt Ann. She's younger than mom was and was still in high school at the time.

Here's a picture of my mom and the kids she taught Bible to:

Mom was always thin, but she gained a few pounds these couple of years. Perhaps it was because the people of the valley ate well as is evidenced by this photo taken next to the cabin:

Such a sight didn't bother mom. She was raised on a small midwestern farm and was well acquainted with agrarian food production. Besides, you have to slaughter the hogs if you want the barbecue:

Actually, that looks like it might be cake, but you can't have your cake untill you've polished off your lunch. These kids were my mom's kids as they sat in front of the church on what may have been a special Sunday. It didn't have to be a special Sunday for ball games. I've been told that many summer Sunday afternoons the people of the valley gathered to play ball:

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Making the Incarnation Real

I've introduced my Sunday School professor, David Moss, to you before. I think I've referred to him as a Sunday School teacher before, but that seems a little silly. Most adult classes are beyond flannelgraph and coloring books. Some adult classes even drop the trite denominational publications designed for adult Sunday School classes. David's teaching has been attracting a few students from other churches. I've never seen this before and it's an odd situation when you see faces in Sunday School that you don't see in church. What are you going to do - tell them to go home? Nevertheless, it speaks to the high caliber of his teaching. Therefore, I call him a Sunday School "professor".

Most recently he has been teaching a series on holiness using a book by Francis Schaeffer as a framework. The past few Sundays he's gone through a section concerning the incarnation and what it means for us today. This is appropriate here as we celebrate the Resurrection this weekend. While we celebrate the incarnation at Christmas, there is no separating the incarnation from the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And while this is understandable on one level, we often miss the fact that there are practical implications for us as believers. I'm editing the audio of some recent classes to post here because I think this is an important lesson that is often not well absorbed and I think David does a great job expounding on just how we should be living out the incarnation as the Body of Christ.

Warning: there's a lot of meat here. If you're a spiritual vegitarian, you might not want to listen.

The two ways that he gives for us to live out the incarnation is 1) in our marriages (and, by extension, our families), and 2) in our churches. I'll post edited lessons on these as I get them edited.

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Of Confidence

I stand on the precipice of reality
Overlooking the valley of dreams
If I take a step forward
Will I stand on solid ground?

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

There Are Chipmunks in the Pinball Machine

I once worked as an engineer in an area that was comprised of large built-in corner desks with the wings of the desks attached side-by side and end-to-end with one another. There were no dividers preventing us from talking easily with our neighbors. This was to enable us to collaborate. It was also a source of distraction. I enjoyed some conversation throughout the day as it could fill our need for human interaction and make the time we spent actually working more productive. However, too much chit-chat and nothing got done.

One neighbor I had in this work environment enjoyed extended conversation and would occasionally spend too much time distracting me. It's not that I didn't enjoy the conversation, but work was work. I learned that the best way to make him productive was to argue with him over whatever topic he happened to be rambling on about. If he was talking politics, for example – perhaps capitol punishment – and he was espousing a positive view, then I would make an insidiously fallacious argument (with a smile) that he couldn't sort out in short order. This would make him upset for a while. As such, he would get quiet and work for a while while he fumed about it. This would make us both more productive.

He never knew why I did what I did. It didn't matter. I was practicing a mild form of behavior modification through psychological manipulation. It's akin to practical hypnotism. Way back in high school, a friend and I worked out some simple methods for doing this and ran experiments for applying the same methods for sociological manipulation.

We all practice behavior modification to some degree simply by interacting with each other. However, I determined at the time that this was dangerous stuff and vowed not to use this knowledge in any significant way. There are people of questionable intent who have developed methods with this knowledge for the purposes of large-scale sociological manipulation and ideological indoctrination. Most of you who read what I write are Christians. Largely, the people who endeavor to control you are not. However, many of them purport to believe that ministers of the gospel are fellow practitioners of this subversive art.

If the subjects of this practice are unaware that their behavior is being modified; and if such manipulation is practiced by mere mortals; then how much more is our Creator capable of modifying our behavior? (The question my Arminian friends would ask is “would He?” I would ask, “How could He not, creating from the beginning and knowing the ends from the beginning?” Isaiah 46:10) I tell you, He manipulates not only our behavior, but our beliefs and capacity to understand as well.

There is more than one view of how God's sovereignty and our free will are compatible. One mistake is to think that the will of a human is somehow on par with God's. This mistake holds that either we are in control of our minds and behavior or God is in control of our minds and behavior, but not both. This is a false dichotomy. It presumes that reformed theologians believe that we do things that are against our will to do. My former coworker behaved according to his greatest inclination. He stopped talking and got to work because he wanted to. It suited him at the time because I changed the conditions of our immediate relationship by challenging his ideological considerations (such as were not necessary to do his job). I did not controvert his will. I merely offered a stimulus that I knew would cause his will to react naturally in a way that I desired.

The human will is not creative, it is reactive. Nothing we respond to is outside of God's created order. God's will is creative, not reactive. God cannot react to anything He created since He created it. There is nothing outside of God's creation for Him to react to since He created all things. (John 1:3) The question then is how can we say that man has any free will at all if God has ordained all things.

Christ told a couple of parables that seem to indicate that there is a creative difference between those who are God's people and those who are not. One is the wheat and the tares. The other is the sheep and the goats. Let me explain through an analogy. No analogy is perfect, but this should help give an idea.

Imagine a pinball machine. Pinballs are cued and shot into the field of play replete with active bumpers and flippers. The balls come to life as they bounce from bumper to bumper and are catapulted across the field by the flippers. However, tilt the machine and the balls fall to the bottom and come to rest. There is no real life in the balls; they merely respond to the outside forces acting on them.

Imagine now balls that are not balls. They are little chipmunks rolled up into balls. They are cued up and shot into the field of play. They come to life as they bounce off the bumpers and are shot across the field by the flippers. However, they're not balls. They may act like balls as long as they stayed balled up and don't exert their internal motivation. However, when they realize that they don't have to bounce whichever way the machine sends them, they are free to spread their legs and run about peculiarly, even if the machine tilts.

The internal motivation of the chipmunks is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in believers. Those who are not God's people are spiritually dead. Those who are God's people have been made alive and spend their time in this world learning how to live in Christ, which is peculiar to those who are dead. Even the will of God's people is reactive, but aside from external stimuli, God's people have the stronger internal stimulation of His Spirit.

Now that's freedom.

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Monday, March 17, 2008

Has Anyone Seen My Kids?

I saw this strange creature today:

It told me, "Boogeley! Boogeley! Boogeley! I am the hair monster and I have your daughter! Give me twenty bucks and I'll let her go!" Then I heard my daughter cry for help, "Help me! Help me!"

Then I saw this:

He said only, "I'm a dude."

Thank goodness!

I've been laughing all evening.

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Saturday, March 15, 2008

More Old Photos - Comparisons

In my last photo post I showed a picture of my dad:

...followed by a picture of me:

I have some other comparison photos that you may enjoy...

Between high school and college, Mom served as a missionary for a couple of years in the Appalachians. She helped start a church in Caney Valley near Surgoinsville, TN. This is a picture she took back around 1960 of the church that was built for the people there:

About 11 years ago, I went up and found the church. It's still being used, but hasn't changed much; neither has the valley.

This is a picture of my wife-to-be, Lois, and her dad back around 1980. This was about the same time when we first met. I was in youth at church with all of her older siblings just after Mom died and Dad remarried:

A few years ago, my wife discovered that she still had that old outfit. Our daughter, Hope, was about the same age as my wife when the picture was made so Lois dressed her up in it and had her dad hold her for a photo:

Here's a 2-in-1. I'm on the left. My oldest son, Luke, is on the right:

Here's an old picture of me trying to push my dad into the piano. This piano was the same one on which I learned to play:

This is the piano that belonged to my dad's parents. Pa-paw wanted to give it to me, so we brought a truck one year and hauled it home. That's my youngest son, Luke looking like he's about to fall off the piano bench there:

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Hey, my cousin Amelia just started up a blog on Xanga. She's in the Navy. Here she is on board ship:

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Logic and Truth: Internal Understanding vs. Proper Rhetoric

I once debated a woman who argued that people were not logical. My argument was that most people may have conflicting presuppositions, but that everyone operated according a logic.

When you study logic, you learn that philosophers have tied logic to rhetoric and semantics. When framing logical arguments, it is necessary to use precise language. Otherwise, analysis by others is left to presumption. For example, I heard the apologetical argument a few days ago I've heard so often before: "Just look at the the world. How can anyone say there's not a Creator?" Rhetorically speaking, this is not a logical argument. An atheist will attempt to frame the intent of the speaker in such a way as to make the statement sound idiotic and they could do so easily.

However, wisdom is not contingent on the study of formal logic. The basis most people have for making the "just look at all this and tell me there's not a God" statement is the self-evident observation that order does not arise out of chaos. I studied chaos theory when it was popular. My observation is that the intricate patterns that arise out of simple formulas did not arise out of chaos. I programmed enough fractals to know that the bivalent logic as well as the contrived formulas are anything but chaotic. It's mathematical charlatanism to purport otherwise. You don't have to study philosophy, logic, advanced mathematics or physics to understand this. If you have studied these things it makes it easier to be articulate enough to frame proper logical arguments. It's disingenuous to intentionally fail to realize the import of such wisdom despite the lack of erudition.

When Paul writes "love believes all" he's not making a loophole for subjective truth. Rather, when we hear poor rhetoric attempting to frame legitimate arguments, it is out of love that we give the speaker the benefit of the doubt and out of a desire to see absolute truth embodied in someone even if they can't vocalize it well.

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Saturday, March 08, 2008

Pygmalion's Presumption - Confidence in Ministers

I watched My Fair Lady the other night. Toward the end of the movie, Eliza Dolittle returns and observes that Henry Higgins treats her like a flower girl (in this context a street urchin) and Colonel Pickering treats her like a lady. She demonstrated Henry's success in her attitude and resolve and Henry demonstrated his childish demeanor in his attempt at superiority.

Henry Higgins was clearly the master of his household and highly respected in the community despite his childish arrogance. He was capable of doing many great things as a result of others' perception of him.

Eliza was a remarkable demonstration of his capabilities. Eliza herself could pull off community respect because of what Henry had done for her. However, she had nothing but mere behavior to back it up. The behavior was enough to fool other people, but her background was that of a mere flower peddler on the streets. On some level some respectability was given with the attempt to straighten her father out, but she didn't have the upbringing of the noblewoman she had been taught to behave like. Nevertheless, even in her low upbringing there was a certain nobility of character that was evident when she learned the etiquette to express her noble intentions within a proper social context.

Do we see ministers who are effective yet not mature Christians? They appear mature because they socialize well. Do we see mature Christians who are not effective ministers because they do not socialize well? (After all, Henry expected Eliza to yet be his servant.) Often the difference has to do with the difficulty of sanctification. The wise are often given wisdom because of the wealth of foolish things they have done. They have often run headlong into the walls of the dark room of this world and have a good idea the size and aspect of the room. A fool stands where he is and declares confidently that he is in the center of the room without having found the walls. He attracts a crowd of believers yet remains a fool.

The confidence of the fool is in himself even if he believes otherwise. The confidence of the wise is in the one who has forgiven him. Too many people are attracted to self-confidence. Eliza had no confidence in herself. She was taught merely to behave confidently; her confidence was in Henry's teaching. Henry had no confidence in Eliza. Henry had every confidence in himself - because others had confidence in him. Eliza learned some self-confidence when others had confidence in her.

To my fellow Christians:
In whom do you have confidence? Is your confidence in the Lord? Do you build up ministers in Christ by having confidence in the Lord's ability to minister through them? If you seek to build up a minister, are you looking for someone who is already a minister or someone who could be if only confidence was placed in them? Do they lack confidence in themselves yet have every confidence in the Lord?

What is your place in building up the church?

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Thursday, March 06, 2008

Old Photos

I don't know why I do this. Dredging up memories makes me melancholy, but I love old photos. I recently went through my mom's old slides and several other photos that my brother has gladly digitized. Some are photos that I've had uploaded for some time. There are more than I want to put in one post so I'll have to make this topical somehow. This post is a sort of photographic genealogy. First, my dad's side of the family:

This is my great-grandfather James Pemberton (after whom I was given my first name) with my great grandmother, Elizabeth Rose "Mom" Pemberton. my pa-paw, Martin Andrew Pemberton, is the baby.

This is Mom Pemberton with her children. My great-grandfather had long since died when this photo was taken. Pa-paw is wearing the red tartan shirt.

Here we have 4 generations. I'm the squirmy kid with my dad on the far left, Pa-paw on the right and Mom Pemberton holding me.

My dad's mom (Ma-maw), Reba, was a Lovitt. Here are several of the Lovitts in a school photo. Even the teacher was a Lovitt. The Lovitts were known as a family to have dark features. Ma-maw is on the back row and hard to see.

Here's a reunion of that class from the early 80's. Ma-maw died in '85. She's on the front row in the blue spotted dress. Great aunt Marie is a couple of people to the right. The tall fellow on the back is one of my great-uncles, but I never met him. The teacher is the fellow on the left and is kin somehow.

This is Pa-paw in the navy about the time of WWII.

This is Ma-maw, probably from the late 20s or 30s.

Here is Ma-maw and Pa-paw Pemberton in the late 70s.

This is their son, my Dad: Martin A Pemberton, jr.

By comparison, this was me about the same age.

Now for my mom's side of the family:

Let's see if I can get these people right. I believe we have David and Margaret Ochs and their son, Isaiah. My great-great-great grandparents and great-great grandfather respectively.

This is a younger photo of Isaiah Ochs. Somewhere the name was changed to a more English spelling pronounced the same: Oaks.

This is my great grandpa and grandma Albert and Mary Oaks. I got my middle name from him. Mary's maiden name was Fox and her mother's maiden name was Harper. It is the Harper characterstics that are most prevalent on this side of the family.

This is my favorite photo of them. Great grandma Oaks was a pistol and it was all grandpa could do to keep her tame.

Their daughter is my grandma, Coral Reeder. Here she is with my grandpa, Ralph Reeder.

This is a photo I didn't know I had. A younger grandpa and grandma Reeder, she with the French braids she kept for years, putting in the floor of the old farm house.

This was my mom, Ruth Arlene Reeder, as a senior in high school.

My happy family in the 70s.

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